Developing Tourism Partnerships

Developing Successful Tourism Partnerships

The following is HDC's Quick Guide to Developing Successful Tourism Partnerships

Tourism Partnerships

Private and public sector based destination tourism partnerships, known as DMP's or DMO's have been a growing a tourism destination management trend for the past several years.

In these times of tight budgets and growing demands, tourism destinations have looked more and more to ways to share costs, skills, and resources for mutual benefit.

Tourism destination partnerships are usually known as DMO's (Destination Management Organisation or Destination Marketing Organisation), or DMP's (Destination Management Partnerships or Destination Marketing Partnership).

So what can tourism destination partnerships do for you?

  • Provide cost sharing for construction projects, exhibit projects, marketing services, staff training and development, and so on.
  • Provide "credibility" for some projects by having the right "names" associated with them.
  • Provide expertise that may not be available "in house".
  • Cut costs in marketing and advertising sites or attractions.
  • Help in grant writing or other revenue generation.
  • Help you accomplish your agency or attraction mission more cost effectively.

These are just a few of the benefits of tourism partnerships. But creating a "successful" destination tourism partnership is not as easy as it might seem and there are pit falls if the partnership doesn’t work out.

The following are some things to consider in developing and maintaining successful tourism partnerships.

Ten Guiding Rules for Making Destination Tourism Partnerships Work!

1) All partners must be equal: While the word "partnership" implies this, we have seen partnerships where one partner is "more equal" than the other in decision making, management, or other issues. This can easily cause friction and the partnership to break up.

2) Benefits to each partner should be equal: All partnerships are based on the fact that each partner is looking to gain some BENEFITS from the partnership. They may be benefits in marketing or advertising their site or resources, benefits in keeping their operation costs down, or other related benefits. If one partner seems to benefit more than the other, but the real "costs" o the partnership are equal, some friction can develop.

3) Partners should have some common or shared mission or organisational purpose:If all partners are after the same end (protecting historical sites, preserving the environment, wanting visitors to value the shared resource, promoting regional tourism, etc.), there is a greater chance of the partnership being successful.

4) "Letter of Agreement" between the partners:There needs to be a written document that spells out exactly the roles, duties, financial commitments, time frame commitments, management responsibilities, etc. for the partnership. This speaks for itself. All partnership agreements should be worked out clearly and in writing.

5) Choose your partners carefully:You Are Known by the Company you Keep! Will this partnership help or possibly hurt your agency or organisation image. For example, if you are an environmental organisation and have a partnership with an Oil Company – what will people think?

6) Talk to each other often:Some types of partnerships succeed or fail because of lack of communications between the partners. Depending on the kind of partnership you have, meet often to discuss common goals, strategies, or problems.

7) Undertake regular reviews:If you have a "long term" partnership agreement (covering several years), have a yearly "updating" meeting to make any needed partnership adjustments. The key here is that tourists, agency administrators, budgets, everything – can change over time. Have flexibility built into your partnerships to make adjustments as needed.

8) Have a common or shared "look":While you want to maintain your agency or organisation identity, visitors are not really interested in who all the partners are. They do not want a quilt work of exhibit design looks, publication mis-matches, or other visually confusing presentations. Agree on a common or shared look for a "seamless" presentation of a common or shared story.

9) Have clear deadlines or work plan timelines:If your partnership involves developing sites, attractions, exhibits, marketing materials, or other such joint projects, make sure that all partners can keep to shared work responsibility deadlines and project time tables. For example, if you are developing outdoor exhibit panels, and your designer needs graphic material from your "partner" by a certain deadline, make sure that the partner can meet these kinds of deadlines.

10) Try to LIKE your tourism partner:If you don’t really get along with a potential tourism partner, you will probably have problems along the way with the potential partnership. Some partnerships fail simply because the partners may have personalities that don’t work well together. Successful tourism partnerships take work!

There are different kinds of tourism partnerships between different kinds of organisations and agencies and how tourism partnerships might work between then vary greatly. From government agencies to commercial tourism attractions, to commercial service providers, to non-profit organisations – partnership benefits and arrangements will vary a lot.

Planning for Partnerships

If you think that your organisation or agency is ready for, or in need of, various kinds of partners, here are some steps for planning for your partnership. We recommend that you think through these questions before selecting or approaching potential partners.
  • Why do we need a partner?
  • How will a partner benefits us?
  • How will a partnership benefit the partner(s)?

Financial Benefits

  • Marketing Benefits
  • Association benefits with our agency or organisation
  • Gain access to a greater number of resources and expertise
  • Help them to accomplish their goals, objectives, or mission


  • What are the goals & objectives of our proposed partnership?
  • What do we envision accomplishing via the partnership?
  • How will you know if the partnership is "successful"?
  • How will you know if/when the partnership is not longer needed?
  • How will we administer the partnership?
  • Who will write the contract or letter of agreement?
  • Who will be responsible for any fiscal accounting?
  • Who will be responsible for staff functions?
  • Do we need a long-term partner(s)or will this be a short-term partnership project?
  • Exactly what do we want our proposed partner(s)to do?
  • Help with funding?
  • Help with staffing?
  • Help with administration of the project?
  • Provide expertise?
  • Provide credibility to the project?
  • Provide "in-kind" services (printing, publications, etc.)?

Who are some potential partners? Make a list of the organisations, companies, attractions, etc. who you think would make a good partner(s) based on the above criteria.

  • How will we implement the partnership? What will it take to get things going?
  • How will we evaluate the success of the partnership? For short or long term projects or working relationships?

Once you have thought through these questions (and hopefully answered them!), then you are ready to approach your potential partners about entering into a partnership arrangement with you.


This short paper was designed to help you think through some of the issues and points that can make or break partnerships. In today’s economy, partnerships, especially in the heritage tourism area, make good business sense. But like good business, it should be carefully planned and thought through to help insure success.